How One Urgent Care Has Made Service a Way of Life

By Mika Doyle

Haiti drs
Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care’s first medical mission team to Haiti. Back row: Dr. Obie Cuento, Brenda Cuento. Front row: Claudine Cuento, Dr. Ellen Lawson, Pat Clackler.

For many people, serving the needy consists of some loose change tossed into a Salvation Army bucket during the holidays. For the staff at Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care, serving the needy is not just a part of their mission; it’s a way of life.

Service as a Way of Life
In 2010, Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care provided $3 million in services to uninsured patients. “We offer free services for those who financially qualify – the people who don’t have access to care,” said Barbara Chambers, business office manager. “Sometimes we’re the only healthcare they may get that year. We feel like people should be able to get healthcare; people should be able to be well. That’s why we’re here.”

About Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care

Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care is a not-for-profit that provides urgent care, workers’ compensation, and occupational medicine services in the western North Carolina area. The organization has a rich history of service that began with its founder Catherine McAuley, who was born in Ireland in 1778 to a wealthy Catholic family. McAuley founded the first House of Mercy in Ireland in 1827 to serve the needs of homeless and abused women and children. In 1831, McAuley founded Sisters of Mercy as a new religious congregation of women dedicated to service to the poor. The first American mission opened in 1843 in Pittsburgh, and the sisters found their way to North Carolina in 1900, where there are now five Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care Centers serving the area.

For information on how to donate to the Catherine McAuley Foundation, visit http://www.somsc.org/mercy/.

That giving attitude is not just on an organizational level. Individual staff members have been known to pay-it-forward when they see someone is in need. According to Chambers, when a young woman came in to get a college physical and did not have enough money to pay for the exam, Dr. Ellen Lawson, the physician who performed the exam, paid for the visit out of her own pocket. The young woman later returned to the clinic and repaid Dr. Lawson by giving her a basket of fruits and vegetables from her garden.

This willingness to get personally involved is the norm for the Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care staff, who must be willing to live by the core values of Sisters of Mercy in order to work at one of their urgent care clinics. “When we hire you, you’re expected to abide by the core values that Sisters of Mercy brought over; those values are a service to the people who come in the door and to our community,” said Chambers. “The staff is very giving because they understand what we expect of them.”

For Cheryl Fore, director of radiology for Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care, the desire to care for others should be inherent in those who choose the medical profession. “I believe most of the people who work in [the] medical [field] … do what we do because we care about people,” said Fore. “[Sisters of Mercy] is a perfect place because we’re like one big family. We’re very close as a staff. When one person hurts or has a need, we help them out. It’s just the way some people are; some people have more of a service heart.”

Extending Their Reach Globally
While Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care provides a plethora of services to the needy in their area, they do not ignore needs that arise globally. When the massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care was quick to pull together a team of volunteers to provide much-needed medical services to those affected by the natural disaster. The organization sent several medicals teams, as well as individual medical professionals, who provided medical services in the worst of conditions, sometimes working out of makeshift tents.

“There was a little girl who had fallen into a pot of boiling beans, and from the back of her legs all the way up was third degree burns,” said Chambers. “They didn’t have anything to give her for pain, so they gave her lollipops. They didn’t have much to offer, but [the Haitians] were so thankful for everything.”

The team did not always have to resort to lollipops, however. Pharmaceutical company Aidarex donated medication, such as antibiotics, ointments, and Mucinex, and the local community donated thousands of dollars worth of supplies.

Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care hopes to return to Haiti this November, but in the interim the organization held golf tournaments and car washes and have been selling cookbooks to raise $30,000 to purchase a four-wheel drive vehicle for two Haitian physicians they befriended during their time in Haiti. The vehicle will help the physicians provide healthcare to people living in outlying areas of cities where hospitals are inaccessible. The organization has met its goal and is currently working with Haitian car dealers to get the vehicle to the two physicians.

Service Begins With Your Community
The Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care staff may have accomplished service projects that cross international borders, but their efforts have not always been on such a large scale. From weeding flower beds at a school to painting a laundry room at a rape crisis center to participating in walk-a-thons, the staff at Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care is dedicated to service on a variety of levels.

“In life people tend to think it’s a ‘me’ world,” said Fore. “If you stop for a minute and give to someone else, whether they’re less fortunate than you or not, it just makes you feel better about yourself and the world and about everything, and that makes that person feel that way, too.”

For those who would like to give back but are not sure how to begin, Chambers and Fore recommend starting within your own community.

“Anything can help,” said Chambers. “Just buying a cookbook at an urgent care [to support the Haiti fund], you’re supporting a huge cause. People put that on their counter and may look at it for a recipe, but they’re getting involved in the bigger picture.”

Mika Doyle is communications coordinator for Practice Velocity, LLC, the leading provider of software solutions for urgent care practices.